The Division I Committee on Infractions has found lack of institutional control at Marshall University for violations of bylaws involving impermissible employment of academic nonqualifiers and a separate academic fraud incident.
The committee placed the university on four years of probation and reduced grants-in-aid in football and men's basketball, among other penalties.
The committee found that for a number of years, athletics department personnel arranged employment with a representative of the university's athletics interests for student-athletes in the football and men's basketball programs who were nonqualifiers during their initial year of enrollment. In addition, those student-athletes were paid at a rate much higher than rates commensurate with similar employment in the area.
A nonqualifier is an individual who does not meet NCAA academic qualifications as an incoming freshman. Individuals who are nonqualifiers are not allowed to practice or compete with their respective teams during their initial year and may not receive athletically related financial aid. NCAA bylaws also prohibit athletics interests from arranging employment for nonqualifiers during the first year of enrollment.
Specifically, between November 1996 and the spring semester of 2000, at least 21 football nonqualifiers and two nonqualifiers in the men's basketball program were employed by a representative of the university's athletics interests during their first year of enrollment. The individuals performed janitorial duties at a business owned by the representative and were paid $25 per hour.
Athletics officials, particularly in the football program, were aware of the employment, and concurred that the assistance to nonqualifiers was an established program before the head football coach joined the university in 1996. One football staff member was assigned to coordinate the employment at the athletics representative's business; however, there was inadequate documentation of hours worked, wages paid or other assurance that the program met NCAA bylaws.
The academic fraud incident occurred during the spring of 1999 when an assistant professor at the university, who also served as a volunteer flexibility coach in the athletics program, provided advance copies of a final examination to football student-athletes. The committee concluded that the facts of the case demonstrated unethical conduct, academic fraud and provision of extra benefits.
During the university's hearing before the Committee on Infractions in September 2001, the committee members notified institutional representatives they were considering a finding of lack of institutional control and invited the university to respond at a later hearing or through written submission. The university responded briefly at the hearing and then later provided a response in greater detail in a letter from the university president. The committee concluded after considering all of the evidence that a finding of lack of institutional control was appropriate.
In its public report, the committee outlined detailed rationale for its finding of lack of institutional control pertaining to the employment of student-athletes. Evidence showed that before 1998, there was no system in place to monitor student-athlete employment. Beginning in 1998, a system was put into place, but it did not work properly. In addition, lack of communication between coaches and the compliance office contributed to the compliance problem.
Members of the committee said they were concerned about the university's lack of initiative to review policies about nonqualifier employment after specific concerns were raised. This eventually led to three self-reports by the university. Of those, the second and third reports amended limited and inaccurate information provided in the first report.
The committee said it was troubled by the overall effort taken by the university to understand and comply with NCAA bylaws, as well as to undertake adequate inquiry when possible problems had been identified. "This record of institutional response is hardly evidence of a university in charge and acting affirmatively to uncover and eliminate violations and compares quite unfavorably with the record of numerous other institutions that have appeared before the committee, institutions that vigorously and aggressively pursued an investigation once they learned of problems in their programs," the report said.
The Committee on Infractions considered self-imposed actions and penalties taken by the university. Among actions taken in February 2000, following discovery of impermissible employment arrangements, the university:
* Immediately released all current nonqualifiers from their current jobs in the event it was established that the athletics department facilitated their employment.
* Ended all employment assistance and offers of employment assistance to all nonqualifiers.
* Reduced the number of nonqualifiers the football and men's basketball programs are allowed to recruit. In football, the number of nonqualifiers permitted in 2001 was reduced to eight and then to six in 2002. In men's basketball, the number of nonqualifiers was reduced to one beginning in 2000. (Note: After July 2001, it was determined immediately to suspend for a two-year period the recruitment of all nonqualifiers in the football and men's basketball programs after their respective 2001 seasons).
* Scheduled appropriate rules education sessions.
* Declared all affected student-athletes ineligible and sought immediate restoration through the NCAA student-athlete reinstatement process.
* Required the student-athlete employment coordinator to attend an NCAA compliance seminar.
* Created the position of assistant compliance director.
In July 2001, after the discovery of extra benefits violations, the university:
* Discontinued recruitment of nonqualifiers in all sports for a period of two years beginning with the 2002-03 academic year.
* Placed a two-year moratorium on employment for all student-athletes at the athletics representative's business.
* Reduced grants-in-aid in football by two in 2002-03 and one in 2003-04. The university also proposed to reduce by one the 12 allowable official recruiting visits in men's basketball for 2002-03 and 2003-04, but the committee considered this penalty meaningless because the university averaged only eight visits in men's basketball during the past four years.
* Disassociated the athletics representative for two years beginning with the 2001-02.
* Fined the athletics representative an amount equal to all legal costs and internal costs incurred by the university because of involvement in NCAA legislation.
* Imposed a two-year probationary period.
* Required several staff members to attend rules compliance seminars in 2002 and 2003.
* Required the assistant athletics director for compliance to conduct a presentation regarding NCAA rules governing student-athlete employment to conference compliance coordinators and to give a presentation about NCAA rules to a number of university groups.
* Produced and distributed an educational brochure to all representatives of the university's athletics interests.
* Realigned compliance responsibilities on a sport-specific basis between the compliance director and the assistant compliance director.
* Implemented a zero-tolerance policy for NCAA rules violations.
* Established an interim compliance committee to review the decisions of the compliance office.
* Transferred the compliance director from athletics to another department at the university.
* Issued letters of reprimand from the university president to the senior vice-president for operations who supervises the department of athletics, the director of athletics, the faculty athletics representative, the assistant director of athletics, the head football coach and the head men's basketball coach.
In addition, the Mid-American Conference has undertaken creation of preventive model protocols on nonqualifiers and transfer student-athletes.
Because of the serious nature of the case, the Committee on Infractions imposed all additional penalties that directly impact the athletics programs and activities that produced the infractions. The following additional penalties were imposed:
* Public reprimand and censure.
* Four years of probation beginning December 21, 2001.
* The university will reduce the number of initial counters available in football by five in each of the 2002-03, 2003-04 and 2004-05 academic years. The university is limited to 20 initial football counters in those years. Marshall has averaged 23 initial football counters during the past four years.
* The university will reduce the total number of football counters to 80 during the 2002-03, 2003-04 and 2004-05 academic years. The university self-imposed a limit of 83 counters in 2002-03 and 84 in 2003-04 and has averaged 84 football counters in the past four years. The reduction was based on information submitted by the university that documented Marshall had over-awarded football grants by at least 15 over the 1997-98 through 1999-00 academic years. The overage resulted from inclusion of the wages paid to nonqualifiers who worked for the athletics representative in the calculation of athletically related financial aid.
* The university will reduce the number of total counters in men's basketball by one during the 2002-03 and 2003-04 academic years. That limits the institution to 12 counters in each of those two years. It has averaged 13 counters in men's basketball during the past four years. The reduction was based on information submitted by the university that documented Marshall had over-awarded men's basketball grants by at least a total of two during 1998-99 and 1999-00. The overage resulted from inclusion of the wages paid to nonqualifiers who worked for the athletics representative in the calculation of athletically related financial aid.
* The former volunteer flexibility coach will be informed in writing by the NCAA that because of his involvement in certain violations of NCAA legislation, if he seeks employment or affiliation in an athletically related position at an NCAA member institution during the period of time beginning December 21, 2001, and ending December 20, 2003, he and the involved institution will be requested to appear before the Division I Committee on Infractions to consider whether the member institution should be subject to the show-cause procedures that could limit the coach's athletically related duties at the new institution for a designated period.
* The university will show-cause why it should not be penalized further if it fails to disassociate the athletics representative from its athletics program for a period of five years from December 21, 2001, based on his failure to provide complete and accurate records and his refusal to fully cooperate with the investigation. The disassociation will include refraining from accepting any assistance from him, refusing his financial assistance or contributions, ensuring that he receives no athletics benefits or privileges and implement any other actions necessary to eliminate his involvement in the university's athletics program.
* During the probationary period, the university will continue to develop and implement a comprehensive education program on NCAA legislation and submit periodic reports to the NCAA. At the end of the probationary period, the university's president will provide a letter to the committee affirming that the university's current athletics policies and practices conform to all requirements of NCAA regulations.
As required by NCAA legislation for any institution involved in a major infractions case, Marshall is subject to the NCAA's repeat-violator provisions for a five-year period beginning on the effective date of the penalties in this case (December 21, 2001).
The members of the Division I Committee on Infractions who heard this case are: Thomas E. Yeager, committee chair and commissioner, Colonial Athletic Association; Paul T. Dee, director of athletics, University of Miami (Florida); Fred Lacey, attorney and retired judge, LeBoeuf, Lamb, Green and MacRae, Newark, New Jersey; Gene Marsh, professor of law, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa; Andrea Myers, athletics director at Indiana State University; James Park Jr., attorney and retired judge, Frost Brown Todd, Lexington, Kentucky; and Josephine Potuto, professor of law, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
A copy of the complete report from the Division I Committee on Infractions is available on NCAA Online at www.ncaa.org.